Thursday, May 31, 2007

Let The Class Warfare Begin

President Pro Tem of the state Senate Don Williams probably should have had a chat with Speaker of the House Jim Amann sometime earlier in the great budget battle of 2007.

First, Williams incorrectly counted Democrat votes in the senate. His tax plan, a scheme to force rich towns to pay more for state services while receiving less in services, fell short of the number of votes he needed to pass the plan over a gubernatorial veto. Then Williams decided, apparently without conferring with Amann, to permit the senate to vote on the measure anyway. Amann was reported to have been surprised at the vote, which passed by the narrowest of margins, a single vote cast by Senator Edward Meyer, who decided at the last moment to put his misgivings behind him and trust that Williams was not selling him a pig in a poke.

The House refused to consider Williams’ measure, preferring its own bill, which contained a tax cut absent from the senate plan. The "tax cut," a temporary reduction in the gas tax for the summer, is widely regarded by critics as little more than a Democrat campaign stuffer.

After all the deliberations and backroom pavalering, the Williams/Amann bill was vetoed by Rell as promised. Immediately, Democrats began to pound on their campaign tocsins.

Rell, the Democrats gleefully pointed out, had now gone on record, as one report put it, as having been “opposed to a tax package that would cut taxes for a majority of taxpayers, while raising the income tax on households earning more than $272,000 annually.”

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney said, "This is a very important issue of accountability and a statement of principle.”

When Republicans pointed out that a review by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis showed that only 58% rather than 95% of Connecticut taxpayers would receive an income tax cut under the Democrat plan, Jim Amann remarked that he was "Glad to see the Republicans coming around. They finally admit that our tax package will give the majority of taxpayers a tax cut." And Williams noted, "The basic point here is Republicans are quibbling with Democrats over how many people under our plan get tax cuts," Williams said. "Under their plan, no one gets a tax cut.

Democrat leaders have six days to negotiate with the governor, and they are understandably anxious.

Republicans, and some Democrats who represent districts that will be paying more in taxes under the Williams/Amann plan while receiving less in services, are asking themselves, “Is this anyway to run a legislature?”

The charitable view is that Williams and Amann don’t want the bill to pass; they just want to use it as a campaign club to gain more seats in the legislature. Even though Democrats presently have enough votes in the legislature to override a gubernatorial veto, more votes would be better. And should Democrats seize the gubernatorial slot in the next election, such cumbersome votes as we have seen in the senate and House would be settled in quiet caucuses out of view of the public, the way it’s traditionally done in efficient one party states.

Behind all the campaign white noise lies the brutal, simple truth. Both Republicans and Democrats are raising spending beyond the rate of inflation, and they are doing this when the treasury is plush with surpluses. On the Democrat side, spending and taxes will increase about 10%. The inescapable message this sends to taxpayers is that costs will not be trimmed during economic good times or bad times. Therefore, spending will increase at all times by whatever amount the Democrat leadership considers “fair.”

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Who’s Smiling Now?

A chastened Governor Jodi Rell appeared on a radio talk show program while Democrats in the legislature were attempting to pass a “more progressive” income tax and said she would not sign the Democrat tax plan.

Once the governor discovered that Connecticut would be awash in revenue for the next few years, she pulled off the bargaining table her plan to raise the income tax, a reversal that Democrat leaders are not likely to let her forget.

The Democrat tax plan cannot be called a budget, because a budget shows outlays for taxing and spending. In previous years, it was thought necessary to present to the legislature budgets that detailed both taxing and spending ledgers. Democrats this year want to get their tax plan passed before they unveil their spending plan. Once the two are put together, Connecticut will have a budget.

Since the only reason offered by Democrat leaders for the unorthodox process was force majeure – We did it because we could do it – one can only speculate why the architects of this year’s progressive Democrat budget plan did not trust their troops enough to present the whole plan to them.

Progressive taxes create animosities between wealthy and less wealthy towns – between those who pay the more progressive tax and those pay a lesser tax, and also between those who receive more and lesser services.

If fact, the class war began even while Democrat leader President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams was trying to convince Sen. Edward Meyer, a Democrat from one of Connecticut’s plucked and plundered districts, to vote for half a budget plan.

"We're being asked to vote for a revenue package without knowing how those revenues would be spent,” Meyer said, something that I understand has not been done. You're buying a pig in a poke.''

A good soldier, Mayer bought the pig in a poke anyway, on the strength of William’s assurance that those who dispense the goodies would sweeten the pot in tony Guilford and Madison, two tony in Mayer's district towns that expect their senator to bring home the bacon.

Unless some adjustments in outlays are made by Williams and Speaker of the House Jim Amann, once thought to be a fiscal conservative, the rich towns will get hit up twice: once when the pay more in taxes, and again when they receive less in state services.

Amann was said to be surprised when, having failed to coral enough votes to override a predictable gubernatorial veto on the more progressive income tax, Williams announced on Memorial Day that he intended to push through his plan anyway. The Democrats had enough votes to pass their tax plan but not enough to override a Rell veto – probably because other Democrats with a foothold in wealthier towns were not willing to buy pigs in pokes.

William’s best laid plan was torn asunder in the end, because he was not able to command enough votes to override Rell’s veto. But should the bill pass in the future, all Democrats, both in the state legislature and in the towns, and all Republicans had better get used to attending legislative sessions with tin cups in their hands. For the beauty of the progressive income tax is not only that it provides a means of transferring wealth from those according to their means to those according to their needs; it also provides those who dispense the goodies with life and death power over other legislators. The progressive income tax empowers the needy by making the Democrat leadership all powerful -- which ought to put smiles on the faces of Williams and Amann.

So far, the Republicans have not been able to answer
with a short and pity response that will fit on a bumper sticker Democrat claims that their progressive tax is fair-minded. The best they could do this time was to question why Democrats felt they needed extra taxes when revenue projections show a surplus of, in round figures, a bilion dollars.

When you say to the middle class “We’re going to lower your taxes and raise the taxes of those who are better able than you to pay for our improvident spending,” workers in Connecticut who make less than $250,000 a year will receive the message with a smile. Everyone loves to consume state services and charge the bill to someone else. The progressive tax enlarges the pool of citizens who consume services without paying for them. It is an enticing message, but one in the end that is simply too good to be true.

Because ultimately there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Amadinijad To Soros – Drop Dead!

On May 13, when leading Democrats in the US Congress were attempting to force president Bush to accept time-lines for troop withdrawals in Iraq, Iranian jihadists were hauling in and arresting American citizens, apparently without permitting them the same rights under American law that U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd would have afforded to Kalid Shiek Mohammad .

Kalid Shiek Mohammad, the architect of the bombing of the U.S. Cole in the Clinton administration, the organizer of 9/11 and the beheader of American journalist Daniel Pearl, among other accomplishments, was waterboarded and spent some time in the non-combatant camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, an ordeal from which he emerged with all his digits and his head intact.

Now running for president on the Cindy Sheehan ticket, Dodd said in a speech before Council on Foreign Relations last October that such as Kalid Shiek Mohammad should be afforded the same rights as American citizens.

It was during this speech, just prior to his presidential bid, that Dodd announced he had crafted legislation that “will make the military commission process one that protects national security while upholding our international credibility—by, among other things, insisting that suspected terrorists will be treated consistent with norms of our national law.”

Among Americans arrested in Iran’s spy sweep were Haleh Esfandiari, the grandmotherly director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, Parnaz Azima, a journalist who works at the U.S.-funded Radio Farda, and Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant who also has worked for the World Bank.

According to news reports, Tajbakhsh is associated with George Soros' Open Society Institute. The enemy of President George Bush and neo-cons everywhere, Soros is the multi-billion dollar sugar daddy who has funded such forward looking progressive entities as MoveOn.org and sundry other anti-neocon adepts, hardly groups that would sponsor Bush spies in Iran.

Never-the-less, the Amadinajad regime arrested the lot of them on charges that they were spying for The Great Satan.

Not without its own resources – Soros once almost bankrupted the Bank of England in an attempt to rig stock prices from which he benefited – Open Society spokeswoman Laura Silber said she was "dismayed at the charges" against Tajbakhsh, an "internationally respected scholar."

Speaking with the associated Press by phone, Silber said, “"The charges are completely without merit. We are very concerned for Dr. Tajkbakhsh's safety and urge the Iranian authorities to release him immediately."

Thus far, protests from progressives has been muted, possibly part of a yet unannounced progressive plan to overthrow the Bush regime in what Amadinajad might call “a soft revolution.”

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dodd As Young Werther

"Be bold, be bold, but not too bold,
Lest the marrow of your blood run cold
" – from the fairy tale “Mr. Fox.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd has not been able to move much above one percentage point in presidential preference polling. That places him roughly twenty nine points below that of President George Bush’s approval rating, now bottoming out at 30%.

Dodd is disappointed at his fellow Democrat presidential wannabes. After all the huffing and puffing since Dodd’s party took over the House and Senate, the Dems in the U.S. Congress have failed to produce a bill (or an indictment of impeachment) forcing the president to withdraw troops from Iraq by next March, Dodd’s preferred withdrawal date.

The date itself is unimportant. The idea is to nudge the already stumbling Bush into the fiery pit. However, none of the serious Democrat presidential contenders want to be responsible for a loss in Iraq, proof, if any were needed, that the Dems do not believe their own pre-election rhetoric. One Vietnam a century is one too many, even for Hillary Clinton.

Dodd has no such misgivings. He is the equivalent of a lame duck presidential wannabe; therefore he can afford to be bold …but not too bold. Dodd is not encouraging his colleagues in the senate to de-finance the war, the proper and constitutional method of asserting legislature prerogatives against a recalcitrant president. None of the serious Democrat presidential candidate is that nervy.

The Iraq funding legislation that passed in the senate by a 80-40 vote contained no provision concerning time line withdrawals of American troop. The House vote, 280-142 in favor of the nearly $95 billion funding bill, did not tickle Rep. John Murtha’s fancy.

The increasingly embittered John Murtha erupted in yet another display of anger, shouting at Rep. Chris Shays who, on his return from Iraq, said he had seen some progress in Anbar province.

Shays said that if Democrats in the House had their way with timetables, “We will have only ourselves to be shameful of... The political progress is moving forward,” at which Murtha, the chief House war protestor, almost hollered, according to one report, “Look at the people killed.”

Earlier in May, Murtha threaten Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, that he would never see another earmark because the former FBI agent presumed to strike a Murtha earmark from an intelligence spending bill.

Earmarks are monetary favors given by the leaders of the dominant party in congress to those who vote in lockstep with party delegations, and Murtha is generally regarded as having perfected the art of the dole. In a burst of brutal honesty worthy of early 20th century Tammany Hall bosses, Murtha once said “Deal making is what Congress is all about.”

One can hear the chorus of Democrat voices in congress singing, “Here, here…”

Connecticut’s two new Reps, Joe Courtney and Chris Murphy voted the Murtha line, and John Larson has long been an opponent of the war. In a New York Times report, Murtha figures as one of Larson’s earmark patrons.

Has the promise of future benefits issuing from Murtha’s grab bag played any role in affecting votes on war strategy among possible congressional beneficiaries? Murphy -- whose campaign against former congresswoman Nancy Johnson was not centered on his opposition to the Iraq war – now says he was sent to congress by a constituency who expects him to bring the troops home within a timeline that will not get him in Dutch with Murtha and other powerful anti-war Democrats.

“If someone tells you it’s not about the money,” says the old cynic, “you know it’s about the money.”

God, Christopher Hitchens And Ascendant Atheism

The pity of it is there is no one on God’s side to answer Christopher Hitchens, the author of “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” the latest and best in a long series of books recently published by ardent atheists. One thinks, almost involuntarily, of the cartoonish marginalia of William Blake’s poems, showing a long like of kings ending in a turd. Standing at the end of the line of distinguished atheist authors is the insufferably haughty Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion," who has suggested that atheists denominate themselves “brights,” so as to distinguish themselves from such "non-bright" thinkers as Blaise Pascal and Thomas Aquinas.

“What an asshole,” Mark Warren commented on Dawkins in a review of Hitchens’ book in Esquire magazine. Brevity really is the soul of wit. Pass over Dawkins and “the wishfully thinking "The End of Faith," by Sam Harris,” an atheist neuroscientist, Warren advises, but do not deny yourself the pleasure of Hitchens.

Here’s to that!

I do not mean to suggest that Hitchens’ fabled wit has failed him here. Not a bit of it, as the Brits might say. This is the best the atheists can do because Hitch is the best of the breed. But there is reason to lament the want of equally entertaining and witty opposition on what we might loosely call the side of the angels. G. B. Shaw had his Chesterton; poor Hitchens has no one to play with. The lately departed Jerry Falwell and the near dead Pat Robertson don’t count.

If God and his modern agents – Osama binLadin comes to mind – did not exist, Hitchens would have been forced to invent them. His demonology needs a devil. Fortunately, the Devil coughed and we have the execrable jihadists. Hitchens has been busily tossing them on his pitchfork for years.

Need all religious practitioners end in jihadism? Hitchens thinks so. There is no room in Hitchens’ religious schema for a Torquemada who turns into a Saint Francis, and if there were, he would as lustily condemn St. Francis, as he has the relatively harmless Mother Teresa. In the age of Fathers John J. Geoghan and Paul Shanley, whose careers in Boston were spend largely pawing and raping defenseless children, it is, of course, an effortless hop skip and a jump to condemn the Catholic Church and all its works.

If one begins with Dawkins’ assumption that God is a delusion, it follows that all professing Christians are delusional; just as, if one begins with the assumption that God is good, despite Voltaire’s brief to the contrary, one is forced to acknowledge that those who participate in the goodness of God are also in some sense good. So much depends upon where one begins to argue.

Atheism has been with us long enough so that those who have been paying attention are familiar – sometimes wearily familiar – with all the rhetorical gymnastics. There is nothing new under the atheist sun, no new primary color, as C. S. Lewis might have put it. The Romans thought the early Christians were atheists, which is why they persecuted them. The elite Romans of the day thought and said that the Christian notion of an afterlife was an absurdity, and they did not take kindly to the notion that, struck on one cheek, one should offer the aggressor the other cheek. What Hitchens brings to the game is a bright wit and a modern perception. Still, Hitchens’ riffs are not quite so devastating as those of Voltaire and other notable atheists, secular mastodons who roamed the earth during the Enlightenment period.

The best review of Hitchens’ book, oddly enough, was written by a polite theist in National Review On Line. It is a good review because its author likes Hitchens.

So do I.

May Means Flowers: June Means Liberation

The merry month of May has come and almost gone. June beckons. Last week, Speaker of the House Jim Amann woke from his bed of pain, got up, shaved and showered, looked in the mirror, snarled and decided that he could not put off any longer harassing Governor Jodi Rell, So, while the sun peaked above the horizon and all was breathlessly still, he conceived a plan. Later he picked up the phone and called his confederate in the senate, President Pro Tem Don Williams. And together the two settled on a strategy: They would encourage their minions in the legislature to over-ride a gubernatorial veto. This was done. The next day, the journalistic world was all a'twitter. How did the two decide to veto this particular piece of legislation? Why did they so decide? Stories were filed; trees were wasted. And still, today, no can provide a convincing answer to these questions. The governor, naturally, was aggrieved. She said the two were bruits and ought not to have done it. Amann said the veto vindicated the constitution, which authorizes the majority party – hereinafter the Dems – to override gubernatorial vetoes. Some obscure professor was cited to the effect that the legislature, under the direction of Amann and Williams, was tinkering with the clockwork constitutional mechanism that separates legislative and executive powers. And then, mercifully, almost as soon as the fracas had begun, it was over; the legislature, the governor, chest thumping leaders at the capital, all went back to their scripts. And still, as May turns the corner towards June, the state is plummeting, relative to other states, in almost every measure of prosperity. Still, young students in Connecticut’s inner cities – the best minds of the future generation, who ought to have gone on to Yale, distinguishing themselves as scholars, doctors and lawyers – are shooting up the hoods. Still, Connecticut is last in the nation in economic growth, though there are signs the patient is not yet dead cold. Still, gas prices are too high. With a wave of their hand, Connecticut’s legislators could easily cut prices at the pump by cutting their take at the pump. Still… Oh, never mind… Let us give thanks, as May disappears and June waves a hearty hello, that the ladies and gents at the LOB have almost finished their work. There are only two slender weeks to go in the legislative session. Spending will not be cut, the money machine at the legislature will continue to suck up and eat out the prosperity of the people. Yet still --it’s almost over.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Dangers Of Steady Habits: Why Florida Is A Boom Town And Connecticut A Wreck

My wife and I and Jake, her guide dog, are back from a short vacation in Florida, where we visited with her sister and a friend who moved out of Connecticut several years ago to be near his son.

The many Nutmeggers we met in Naples and Vero Beach put me in mind of a story told about Rex Harrison, the famous British actor who moved to Belgium in order, some supposed, to escape Britain’s high taxes.

Why did he move to Belgium, Harrison was asked by an aggrieved BBC reporter.

Harrison smiled broadly and said he liked the chocolates.

Florida is not known for its chocolates, but it has become a haven for the tired, wretched and increasingly poor Nutmeggers who like its Homestead Act.

The Homestead Act is a bar to the kinds of increases in Connecticut property taxes that now threaten to impoverish all classes in the state but the very wealthy, whose fixed incomes are generous. They may not be so for long; our ever voracious legislature has been diddling for some time with a millionaire's tax. Most recently, Democrats in the legislature have settled upon a more progressive tax that will kick in when earnings reach the $200,000 level, perhaps reasoning that a 1/5th millionaire is better than no millionaire at all.

If you bought a house in Naples in 1960 and paid X percent in taxes on it, the X percent will remain pretty much the same as you get on in years and your earning potential decreases.

Naples and Vero Beach are boomtowns largely because of the Homestead Act.

Not only does the Florida property tax homestead exemption reduce the value of a home for assessment of property taxes by $25,000, it also caps the rate at which property taxes may be increased. If a house is homesteaded, its assessed value remains fairly constant.

There is no revaluation shock on homes in Florida; this is the result of the “Save Our Homes” Amendment to the Florida Constitution which was passed by voters in 1992, and went into effect in 1995. The amendment caps the increase of the assessed value of a home with a homestead exemption to the lesser of 3% or the rate of inflation.

And so, a Floridian, returning home from a vacation in Connecticut never picks up his newspaper to find this.

The city of Hartford is forced to go begging for a reprive from the legislature because a) the city itself has not minded its spending, b) revaluation has enriched the government of Hartford while impoverishing its people, c) the city now finds it must reverse an earlier prudent decision to eliminate a tax that is punishing to businesses because people simply cannot afford the hike in taxes.

The good news is – they can always move to Florida, where the weather is fine, the taxes are low and business is booming.

Oh yes; I almost forgot -- in Florida sprawl is pretty. Naples itself has sprawled and sprawled and sprawled; it keeps getting bigger and better all the time. This satisfies the town fathers, state politicians and those who depend on the large increase in tax revenue produced by the influx of Nutmeggers fleeing south. The more people there are, the more tax revenue there is. And businesses follow. Businesses do not lobby legislatures in an attempt to persuade grasping politicians to favor them over the vox populi. Between the two, there is an amiable truce; what is good for one is good for the other.

Here in the Land Of Steady Bad Habits, taxing is a zero sum game, and the fittest will survive -- or move to Florida, where everyone is happy, tanned and carefree.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Machine vs The Man

Very likely the most exciting race in Connecticut next year will be in Bridgeport, where the man, Rep. Chris Caruso, will face the machine.

Bridgeport, like most of Connecticut, is a one horse town. The Democrat Party has run it ever since Caruso’s Great Granddaddy was knee high to a toadstool.

The machine’s choices recently have been rather unfortunate.

Federal prosecutors, using RICO statutes, bagged two Bridgeport worthies in recent years: former Mayor Joe Gannim and former state senator Ernest Newton, both now cooling their heels in jail. Someone from the Bridgeport machine probably told Bridgeport's current mayor, John Fabrizi to take a hike after his recent admissions of drug and alcohol abuse. Caruso, the White Knight of Bridgeport, has been openly contemptuous of Bridgeport's shakers and movers, calling them "clowns" and applying to them other sobriquets not designed to win him friends among party regulars.

With the backing of Bridgeport's kingmakers, the Connecticut Post now is reporting, State Senator William Finch "is seen as the establishment candidate for the nomination against state Rep. Christopher Caruso, D-Bridgeport, who has long been at odds with party leaders. Caruso, who lost the nomination to Fabrizi in a primary four years ago, vows to run an outsider campaign again this year."

Connecticut politicians in the know are betting on the machine. The people Caruso dismiss as clowns may behave from time to time like the Keystone Cops, but Bridgeporters appear, at the moment anyway, not to have had their fill of clownishness, and there is after all something praiseworthy in a town that so frequently sends its politicians up the river, a precedent that towns unexamined by federal snoops should follow.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

RUCKELSHAUS, CARSON, AND DDT

An eye-opener from Natalie Sirkin that might well be titled "How Environmentalists Facilitated Malaria Among the Poor In Africa."

The summer of 1971 brought the Sirkins and the gypsy-moth infestation to Sherman and Connecticut. Environmental organizations told us not to spray. In those days, we were all environmentalists. We held out till we could bear it no longer. A few days later, even they gave up.

In those days we still could have had DDT. The EPA public hearing which lasted eight months was still in progress. Its decision by Hearing Examiner Sweeney would vindicate DDT completely, but soon after EPA William Ruckelshaus would overrule Sweeney’s decision. Science could help, said Ruckelshaus, but this was a political decision, which put him in charge. He and Rachel Carson were the sources for the bad on DDT.

Rachel Carson, nine years earlier, had started it all. Her book started the environmental movement. Pesticides were the problem, especially DDT, and her book, Silent Spring, had an impact over the whole country and beyond. Ceylon had been using DDT and had reduced the number of malaria cases from 2.6 million to 17. Seventeen! But when they read Silent Spring, they stopped using DDT, and in a few years, malaria in Ceylon rose to what it had been when they started using DDT.

Even famous scientists (in other fields) accepted the Carson warnings. “The allegations against DDT were repeated so often and stated with such passion that the public remains convinced of their validity,” as Aaron Wildavsky described the condition of the country. As with Global Warming today, only one side was heard.

The Congress was no exception. Tuesday, April 24, was Africa Malaria Day, and Michigan Representative John Conyers invited Pesticide Action Network to Congress to denounce DDT as an “unsafe malaria intervention.” Senator Jeffers had earlier proclaimed that all you had to do was to read a chapter of Silent Spring and you would understand the great danger of DDT.

What else could be thought when for decades that was all one heard or read? Science magazine told microphysics Professor Thomas Jukes of Berkeley that it would never publish anything supporting DDT. In the decades since, the false information that DDT was harmful to the bald eagle, for which there is no evidence, has been echoed in every media article. Even if it were true, millions of children and pregnant women particularly in Africa are dying every year of malaria. Are they were less important than the birds? (They are. Critics of DDT worried about overpopulation, which DDT would permit.)

Judge Sweeney’s decision of April 24, 1972, was that there was nothing at all the matter with DDT. It is not harmful to freshwater fish, wild birds, or other wildlife. “The evidence in this proceeding supports the conclusion that there is a present need for the essential uses of DDT,” declared Sweeney. DDT is not mutagenic or carcinogenic.

His friends in the Environmental Defense Fund (now Environmental Defense) appealed, and Ruckelshaus reversed Sweeney’s decision, finding that DDT ”poses a carcinogenic risk to humans.” He refused to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and failed to file an Environmental Impact Statement. He make several errors, which expert J. Gordon Edwards described and Senator Goldwater put in the Congressional Record. Not a one ever reached the public, though dozens of copies wee distributed. According to Edwards, Ruckelshaus was a member of EDF. Later he sent out letters on his personal stationary soliciting funds for EDF.

Ruckelshaus should have referred EDF’s appeal to the EPA judicial officer, according to John Quarles, Ruckelshaus’s General Counsel in 1971-2. Added Quarles, “There were no findings that DDT had caused any harm or would cause harm under a specific set of circumstances or at any particular time or place.” Quarles remarks appear in his affidavit to the U.S. District Court in Northern Alabama on June 3, 1982.

According to EDF founding member Yannacone, the EDF, then three guys with a clipboard, was acting for the National Audubon Society, a member of whom attended all board meetings of the EDF. In 1971, Ruckelshaus addressed the Wisconsin Audubon Society: “As a member of the Audubon Society myself, and knowing the impact of this chlorinated hydrocarbon in certain species of raptorial birds, I was highly suspicious of this compound [DDT] . . . Certainly we’ll all feel better when the persistent compounds can be phased out in favor of biological controls.” The following year he made it so.

The effort to combat malaria ever since Ruckelshaus’s DDT ban has been on finding a vaccine. Even some of the Gates Foundation mllions are going for vaccine-research. Even if it were siccessfi;, consider the alternatives: Vaccinating all African youngsters under five and pregnant women vs. spraying DDT on the interior walls of huts, which only has to be done twice a year.

Along with the search for a vaccine, the WHO even as it has finally come to accept DDT (as have a couple of environmental organizations) has nevertheless also opted for an ancient Chinese herb, artemisinin, a derivative of sweet wormwood. WHO believes it should be combined with other substances lest the mosquitoes become resistant to it. Such combination therapy slows the emergence of microbes resistant to drugs.

And then there are “bednets,” far less useful than DDT and far more costly but better than nothing, though only two percent of African children use them. The U.S. Government is spending a lot of money on bednets for Africa .

A simple act of Congress could overturn the EPA ban on DDT. Never was there a more efficacious remedy nor a cheaper one. Ruckelshaus’s ban on DDT has to be judged the most expensive error the EPA has ever made. As for Rachel Carson, she is not a model of great women in American history.

By Natalie Sirkin
c2007

Clowns Out, Caruso In

The Connecticut Post is reporting that State Rep. Chris Caruso will enter the race for mayor of Bridgeport as a frontrunner.

Caruso will skip the usual formalities, such as being nominated by his party to run for mayor, because, Caruso said, “"I think the city is ripe for change. I hear it every day. They don't want the same circus with different clowns."

Even Sen. Joe Lieberman, when he decided to run as an Independent Democrat in the general election after his defeat in a primary, did not go quite so far as to call the leaders of his party clowns. But then, Caruso has fashioned himself as one of those rare politicians who, like former senator and governor Lowell Weicker and Lieberman, are able to rise above party interests and do the right thing for the people he represents.

And isn't it about time Bridgeport had a white knight as mayor?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Ethics Reform Petard in Corrupticut

The charge is that Lisa Moody, Governor Jodi Rell’s chief aid, committed an offense against the spirit of ethics regulations – or, in current parlance, an “appearance of impropriety” – when she obtained from Connecticut’s burgeoning Art Community a list of potential donors and sent the names on to campaign workers who squeezed the innocent dears for campaign contributions.

The charge, as answered by the Rell campaign and the governor herself, is that the list was available to any citizen who cared to obtain it, including news reporters. Neither Rell nor Moody, according to the view from the governor’s office, committed an impropriety when the list was sent to purse squeezers in the Rell campaign.

To this Democrats have countered: It’s not what but when. Ethics regulations prohibit the gubernatorial staff from campaigning on the state’s dime. Multiple investigations are in process.

State auditors have sifted through the ethical debris and sent their findings along to Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is turning over the dirt. No one at the ethically sensitive Courant has yet suggested that Blumenthal, the all but anointed candidate for governor on the Democrat ticket, should recuse himself from any investigation touching on the person he might displace. Kevin Rennie, the first Courant writer who lifted up this particular stone, seems unconcerned at any sniff of impropriety coming from St. Blumenthal.

One wonders whether the issue would have stuck so deeply in state Rep. Christopher Caruso’s craw if Moody had obtained the names from, say, Jon Lender, the Hartford Courant investigative reporter who has now been put on the case. Caruso is the fire breathing co-chairman of the government administration and elections committee who some months ago grilled Moody in an attempt to demonstrate that she had lied under oath concerning her previous brush with unethical activity. Although the Courant was not the first paper to catch Rowland with his thumb in the pie, an honor that belongs to the Journal Inquirer, Lender, among others, was responsible for introducing former Governor John Rowland to a prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania.

The pressure Moody brought to bear against the Arts community would not matter at all – Indeed, in times past, this sort of thing never mattered at all – if Rowland had not been, as Shakespeare might have said, “hoisted by his own petard.” The Rowland conviction was the tap of the toe that got the ethics ball rolling. That ball has snowballed, and the muffled cries now rending the air are those of Moody, squished beneath its ponderous weight.

It does not help that Moody has been here once before. Though Moody’s actions in the present case may not be illegal, they are certainly provocative and teeter on the brink of unethical activity – as presently determined by Caruso, among other partisan Democrats who hope to hang Moody around Rell’s neck like an albatross.

It is the rolling ball that may present future problems for Democrats. Unethical impropriety is an elastic concept that may be stretched by partisans to include activity necessary to leaders who hope to push bills forward through the legislature. Only idiots believe that sweet reason alone is sufficient to persuade legislator A to vote for bill B. Caucuses are held together, as often as not, by threats and promises. And a promise, as often as not, involves an exchange of services: You do this for me, and I’ll do this for you.

Once the ethical race for purity has begun, the urge to saintliness that has become the hallmark of Caruso’s career impinges on the necessary business of legislative sausage making. Legislators without haloes would agree with Otto von Bismarck that lawmaking, like sausage making, is a messy affair; which is to say, it may sometimes involve activities unpleasant to saints like Caruso who do not entertain distinctions between lies, damned lies and the sort of behavior likely to get you a pass to jail – even if you are a member of a Democrat majority in the legislature that need not worry about gubernatorial vetoes.

One imagines such crushing snowballs rolling through the nightmares of Speaker of the House Jim Amann and President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams, the sleepless nights, the midnight sweats, the anxious mornings, the days full of doubts: In the age of ethical purity now upon us, where is the guarantee that the prison doors will not open for thee and me?

Friday, May 04, 2007

We Are All Compassionate Now

“In a vote of 113 to 36, ‘SB 1343: An Act Concerning Compassionate Care for Victims of Sexual Assault’ passed the CT House this evening. The bill’s next stop is Governor Rell’s desk” – from Connecticut Local Politics

The bill was well named, with a view towards getting it passed. Whenever we see titles of this kind, we should lift up their skirts and have a look-see. George Orwell would have done the same. Orwell was instinctively mistrustful the whole bag of rhetorical tricks deployed by the 20th century’s clever advertisers, and his approach to the whole matter of propaganda is that of a poet who realizes that thoughts, the springs of human action, can be corrupted by language.

V. I. Lenin, who had a genius for concision, put it this way: “If you name a thing properly, you do not have to argue with it.”

The artfully named Compassionate Care For Victims of Sexual Assault bill is a legislative devise designed to force Catholic hospitals to provide Plan B to rape victims. Depending on one’s view, Plan B is either an abortifacient that will terminate a developing life or, according to expert testimony given by a sympathetic witness at the legislative hearing that catapulted the bill into the House, a simple contraceptive.

According to legislative testimony, Plan B cannot act as an abortifacient. Therefore, Plan B, given to a rape victim who is ovulating or pregnant – the only condition under which Catholic hospitals will refuse to administer the drug – is a placebo, little more than a sugar pill that has no effect on birth prevention.

If it is a placebo, and the rape victim is pregnant, Plan B can provide no relief and the rape victim will be forced to carry her issue to term -- unless future legislation written by compassionate legislators and signed into law by a compassionate governor forces Catholic hospitals to abort unwanted fetuses, compassionately, of course.

We are, all of us, comfortable with contraceptives. And, since a Supreme Court finding several years ago rooted in the “aura” of rights surrounding the US Constitution found abortion permissible and in some cases praiseworthy, we are increasingly comfortable with abortion, which is the termination of a developing fetus, which is a being that, left to pursue its merry course unmolested by birth interventionists and their facilitators in courts and legislatures, might well develop into a compassionate Catholic priest, a compassionate theologian, a compassionate ethicist, a compassionate legislative facilitator or a compassionate abortionist.

Unaborted, human life in the womb will never develop into fish or fowl, which has led some scientists to conclude that there is indeed a essential connection between the first undifferentiated beginnings of human life and the final human product that should make other compassionate human beings a little queasy over abortion.

This connection was not prominently stressed in testimony before the Connecticut Public Health Committee hearing that has now send to the senate “An Act Concerning Compassionate Care for Victims of Sexual Assault,” where the bill -- Reps. Heinrich, Sen Harris, both spearheading the bill, and God willing -- will be passed into law.

And the practical effect of “SB 1343: An Act Concerning Compassionate Care for Victims of Sexual Assault” will be what, precisely?

It is the answer to this question, and not highly politicized attempts to recruit science to support desired legislation, that should focus the attention of those of us who are unfriendly to the oily propagandists despised by Orwell.

This is what the bill, according to its supporters will not do: It will neither prevent rapes nor provide relief to victims of rape who have been impregnated by the criminals who assaulted them -- because Plan B is not, according to the testimony that representatives relied upon when they approved the bill, an abortifacient. It is a contraceptive.

This is what the bill will do: It will force those Connecticut Catholics who believe, along with Catholic bio-medical ethicists, that Plan B violates the cannon laws of the Church to violate the dictates of their faith and their informed consciences because the legislature in its wisdom has bought into the notion that providing placeboes to rape victims is “compassionate.” The bill also will violate that portion of the First Amendment that prevents legislators from doing what this bill manifestly does: The bill and all the so called reasonable “compromises” legislators have been tinkering with forces the Catholic Church to assent to actions that violate its laws, its ethics and its religion.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Confessions (Tapes) Of GWB, Part One

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Testing, testing … Newspaper folk sometimes say their stories are the first rough draft of history. These thoughts are less than that; they are the first rough draft of the first rough draft of history.

You’re only as good as the information you receive. Take George T_ … please! No, only kidding. Look, I’m the first to understand that people have to make a living. That’s good; that’s the American way. But really… George was the main spook. So, you’d think when you’re talking to the guy who has his finger on the red button – me -- you’d be a little more circumcised … sorry, that’s circumspect … in what you say. When you say “slam dunk” to someone like me, who is intimately familiar with sports, it means SLAM DUNK, NO PROBLEMO, DO IT!

But, ya’know, T_ did have a point when he said the president didn’t make important decisions based only on partial, emotional responses. There was at the time, as I recall, a Noah’s flood of information out there, a good deal of it, unfortunately, wrong. But that’s what I say: You are the information you have. And, I wonder, why is it no one – I mean none of the first drafters of history – has pointed a finger in the direction of Saddam H_, that blustering, blithering idiot?

It wasn’t just me he fooled, ya’know. He fooled some of the best minds of my generation: Hans Blick, for instance, and Chris Dodd, who, along with a sizable chunk of other knowledgeable brainiacks, actually supported the war on terror… And that’s another thing: Congress, not worth a plug nickel when the bullets start whizzing over the foxhole, now has repealed the expression “the war on terror.” Can you believe it?

Anyway… let’s see… Oh yeah… Even Hillary, even she, for G_’s sake! Everybody believed Saddam H_ had weapons of mass destructions – because ol’S_H wanted everybody to believe he had WMDs. Again, you’re the info you have, see?

Now why did Saddam H_ want everyone to believe that, do you think? Probably had something to do with Iran; that’s my best guess. Iran, brimming with Persians who don’t care a hoot and a holler about Islamic religious divisions, and Iraq, secularized under the late Saddam H_ , have been at each other’s throats throughout the administrations of the last two presidents, Hillary’s husband Bill and my own dear daddy. Course, they’ve been at it longer than that; everyone knows that; it doesn’t take a Karl Rove or a Maureen Dowd, who’s been known to lob a few WMD’s in my direction from her hidyhole at the New York Times, to figure that one out.

By the way, let me just say in passing that Rove’s position in this administration has been highly over-rated: I’m Rove’s brain, s’not the other way round…

Anyway, hmmm… anyway… oh yeah … Saddam H_ wanted to convince Iran, bubbling over with imams ever since Jimmy C_ blinked and the Shah went under, that he had WMD’s; that’s what I think. And he did convince them – me too, Dodd too, Hillary too, the UN, that agglomeration of banal evil, too. What the H_ does everyone think the UN and Hans were looking for in Iraq – Easter eggs? Come on! The US Congress can repeal “the war on terror” if it likes, but it can’t repeal history, of which… this is the first rough draft of the first rough draft…

Wednesday, May 02, 2007 (Later)

Hello, hello… These thoughts are the first rough draft of the first rough draft of history…

Note on the media: The media, taken in a lump, is impersonal. That’s how most Americans see it; don’t know about the Frenchies. Course, once you screw the jeweler’s loop into your eye and have a closer look at the thing, personalities emerge. Possibly, there are some folk out there in Medialand, hidden in the tall grass, who hate me; that’s just part of the job; some things presidents must do are hateful. Some of the Dems hate me for strutting on the aircraft carrier after we had cleaned Saddam H_’s clock; some paloecons hate me for yielding to the neocons. The bloggers hate me because if they stopped hating someone, they’d melt, like the Wicked Witch of the East in the Wizzard of Oz, thinking of which… Hollywood doesn’t make things like that anymore. Others in Medialand are beset with one or another "idea fixed", as the Frenchies say. Some journalists have lobby-envy; they want to be influence peddlers; they want to make their mark on the great tide of human events.

Been reading about one of these guys lately, Walter Durranty of the New York Times. Heaped on the ash bin of history, Walt D_'s pretty much forgotten now, and good riddens to bad rubbish. But, in his day, Walt D_ was the top dog at the NYT, a sort of 1930’s Maureen D_. People went about referring to him as “the great Durranty.” Other journalists wished to immolate him … sorry, emulate him. And he received the much coveted Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Joe Stalin’s 1933-34 Five Year Plan. Walt D_’s prize now hangs on the Wall of Pulitzers in the New York Times’ building. Another reporter, Malcolm Muggeridge, one of the good guys, said that in all his years of journalism -- and he packed in a few -- he had never met so accomplished a pathological liar.

Here’s the deal: Stalin wanted to bring Ukraine under his hobnail boot, and he did it in his usual dictatorshipoftheproletariat fashion – by creating an artificial famine that produced, Bobby Conquest figures, upwards of 10 million dead bodies, all of them starved to death when Joey S_ confiscated the seed grain Ukrainians used in their yearly plantings.

Now, it’s a little difficult, to say the least, to tuck all those bodies under the rug. But Joey S_ managed to do it, and in this he got an important assist from The Great Duranty, the Pulitzer Prize winner, who wrote in dispatch after dispatch to the Times that the famine was a local affair, the result of Joey S_’s heroic efforts to drag Russian peasants into the industrialized 20th century by their venial … oops, venerable … beards.

Ukrainians in Canada, the United States and Europe made a fuss about it a few years ago, and some of them even demanded that Walt D_’s prize should be stripped from him and be re-awarded to Gareth Jones, a Scottish reporter later killed by the Chinese Communists, who, along with Malcolm M_, was among the first uncorrupted journalists to get the story out. The Times reviewed the whole sorry mess a few years ago, around the same time they debased Jayson Blair, but finally the bigwigs at the NYT came down on the side of the pathological liar and refused to withdraw the prize.

Further note: Mention this to Maureen D_ the next time Laura invites her to tea at the White House. Maybe she’s got some pull down there. This fraud has gone on long enough.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007 (Much Later)

Hello… testing… Once again, These thoughts are the first rough draft of the first rough draft of history…

It’s the sort of thing that makes you wanna spit, which I do often enough at the ranch, but never in the White House, because presidents have to keep up appearances. Nancy Pelosi – really a very nice lady, but not a firm negotiator when palavering with snakes like that student protestor over there in Iran, Amadinawhatsisface, or Bashir Whose’its of Syria – (click) hello… hell--lo… (click)… Okay, ready to go… Okay, Nancy… right… I like the babushka. But ya’hafta wonder… Do they get it? And if they get it, what do they plan to do with it? I mean, I’m in it for the short run. When I leave here, as I’ve said many times before, I’ll go back to the ranch, clear some brush, potter about the house, shoo Cindy Sheehan away, grow old, wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled… See there, Maureen D_, I do read. And I’m content to leave my legacy, tattered as it is now, to those who write the final draft of history. But history is gonna depend on others, and the shape of the modern world – or post modern world; I’ve never really understood the distinction between modern and post-modern – will depend on what Hegel calls the Spirit of history. That Spirit is beyond our ken. Yes, I can confess it now: I’m a bit of a Teddy Rooseveltain and an Hegelian. I like Teddy – hard charger, that one -- and I like Hegel too, particularly his anonymous translation, “Vertrauliche Brief Uber das vormalige staatsrechtliche Verhaltnis des Waadtlandes (Pays de Vaud) zur Stadt Bern: Aus dem Franzosischen eines verstorbenen Schweizers” But neither Teddy, a sort of American superman, or GWFH had to put up with Nancy P_, however nice… (click) … she … (click)… hello… hello…

It's Who You Know, Not What You Know

A blog entrée written by Ghengis Conn, the proprietor of Connecticut Local Politics, noted in a piece in the Journal Inquirer written by reporter Don Michak, caught the attention of no less an eminence than Attorney General Richard Blumenthal who, properly chastened, vowed he would use his considerable influence to persuade the legislature to alter, if necessary, a bill involving minors and internet predators.

The legislative bill, according to Michak, would require social internet sites such as MySpace and Facebook to obtain “written consent from the minor’s parent or guardian and giving the latter access to the profile page at all times.” The legislation also “would require the sites to use independently obtainable information to confirm the accuracy of personal information collected from site members, parents and guardians when registering.”

These safety valves alarmed Ghengis, who wrote on his own site, “…there’s no way I and the other moderators (on Connecticut Local Politics) can check everyone’s ages in the way that this bill wants.”

Almost immediately after these objections were noted on Connecticut Local Politics, Michael Lawlor, the powerful co-chair of the Judiciary Committee who is presently spearheading a bill in the legislature that would force Catholics to dispense Plan B pills to rape victims, appeared on the site to offer soothing assurances.

Before approving the bill, Lawlor wrote, the panel over which he presides had agreed to “do a total re-write of the portions relating to ‘social networking’ sites. There are other parts of the bill which aren’t so bad, so we decided to vote it out of the committee rather than let it die.”

Political bloggers, Lawlor said, should “rest assured that nothing remotely resembling the language in the bill today will become law.”

Blumenthal concurred: “…we want to avoid any chilling effect on political discourse. I’m going to have another look at the language because I intend and believe that we have excluded political blogs.”

It is cheering to think that Lawlor is so concerned with legislative action that might violate part of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. One can never be too watchful, and in matters like this, one should take care to err on the side of the Constitution. The same amendment that has aroused Lawlor’s concern, taken in full, includes language preventing Congress – and, by extension, state legislatures – from passing laws prohibiting “the free exercise of religion.”

The same First Amendment that protects free speech by restricting the law making power of legislators also protects the capacity of religious bodies to practice their religion freely by restraining the heavy hand of law makers like Lawlor. The very same amendment that protects free speech also includes language prohibiting lawmakers from creating bills that “prohibit” the free exercise of religion.

Now, it so happens that there are presently other bills issuing from the committee Lawlor directs that turn on the First Amendment. Ghengis has objected to one of them and taken a pass on the others.

The bill most similar to the one that has aroused the antipathies of Ghengis, Lawlor, Blumenthal -- and freedom of speech lovers everywhere -- is the so called parental notification bill now before the legislature, which would require abortionists to notify parents or legal guardians before engaging in an operation considerably more risky than postings on internet sites.

Presumably – somewhere in the vast aura of court adduced rights that surround the constitution – there is a right of parents to advise and consent in the matter of medical operations on their children. If no such right can be detected in the surrounding aura from which judges have deduced a right to abortion, perhaps Attorney General Richard Blumenthal can be convinced to advise the state legislature to approve the parental notification bill. After all, the U.S. Constitution no where directly prohibits states from passing laws governing parental notification.

The Constitution does, however, contain in the plainest possible language a prohibition on the governing power that restricts impositions on the “free exercise (of religion).”

And yet, the state of Connecticut, nder the direction of Lawlor, is on the point of passing a bill that would force Catholic hospitals to provide Plan B pills to rape victims, even though Lawlor and other legislators who approve the bill know that administering the pill to women who test positively for ovulation violates the cannon laws of the Catholic Church and entails serious ecclesiastical penalties, not excluding excommunication.

In another Journal Inquirer piece, columnist Chris Powell has punctured the notion that pro-Plan B enthusiasts offered "compromise" legislation to sooth the anxieties of orthodox Catholics.

Perhaps Lawlor might be a little more accommodating if Catholic cannon law ethicists advising the church in this matter were bloggers fretting about the damage overly stringent laws might have on that part of the First Amendment they have decided to defend.